Composing memorable urban landscapes
Top Tips to create the perfect landscape photograph by Rajneesh Panwar
When we talk about urban landscapes, we usually think about buildings and high rises. While they do form a part of the urban landscape, they are not the only examples. For me, it is also about capturing people in their daily life in an urban environment. Here are some of my top tips that will help you create a truly memorable urban landscape photograph.
1. Learn to see light and the shadows it creates
Light can help you to bring out fine details, textures and saturation of the colours. When we are talking about the light, we have to keep an eye on the shadows it creates. Shadows play an important role in giving dimensions to the shapes and thus creating a depth in an image.
2. Go beyond cliché
Today, when almost everybody moving around with a mobile phone is a photographer, it is important that one goes beyond shooting cliché images and virtually get noticed.
For this I almost always junk the first image that gets created in my mind and make use of angles, vantage points, lights and shadows, zoom ins and zoom outs, creative use of focal lengths and sometimes all applied in one image. This helps me think out of box and get creative images.
3. Think like an architect
Shooting architecture is not just about clicking them, but it is all about photographing their soul. Think like an architect, what he felt while designing the architecture, take your time and analyze carefully, feel the shape, a curve, lines, details, design and most importantly light.
Lines, curves and shapes are supposed to be the most effective part of a composition as they provide a structure to your photograph.
Lines can be vertical lines (shows sense for strength), horizontal lines (sense of calmness), diagonal line (sense of movement), leading lines (leads viewer’s eyes to the subject).
Shape is just a 2D element in an image but with the help of different tonal range in the shape, it can create the sense of 3rd Dimension.
4. Find a high vantage point
It is very essential to find a high vantage point to get new perspective of the cityscape. It doesn’t matter if u climb up a few stairs or go on top of the building, all that matters is the composition and interesting view of the city. You can shoot such scenes with wide angle or longer focal length to get the best results out of it.
5. Go Close and make use of focal length
Going close and low gives an interesting worm’s eye view. You can use wide angle and fish eye lens to create exciting new angles and filling the foreground with interesting subject or elements. Be careful with the shallow depth of field and be sure of where you need to focus. Use a narrow aperture to get a good depth of field but don’t go beyond F16 as it will result in diffraction of the light and you may loose sharpness.
Personally I use camera’s LCD screen (live view mode) to frame my shots while going really low.
6. Use Long Exposure
Long exposures will show you something which our eyes cannot see and it will help you to create surreal images. You can create long exposures with the help of ND Filters. Personally, I use 10 to 16 Stop ND Filter (depending upon the light) which makes the shutter speed very slow. Best ND Filters available in the market are Lee Big Stopper, B+W, Formatt-Hitech. A good and sturdy tripod (carbon fibre is highly recommended) is essential for taking long exposure shots.
7. Get Details
While shooting the details, telephoto lenses play a vital role. Zoom in and go tight with the frame. For photographing the details, look for the areas of lights and shades, lines, shapes, patterns, colors and minimalism.
8. Get people into the frame
Human elements are strong elements in compositions as they can create a strong visual interest in the frame. Our human eye has a habit of searching for humans in the frame as we are already surrounded by the humans in real life. So it helps the viewer to connect with the image and adds energy to an otherwise static scene.
9. Post Processing
Post Processing is an integral part of photography workflow. And this fact changes the whole concept. As per Ansel Admas himself: “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” Sometimes light is not what we would like to have and this is where simple tools like dodging and burning help us shape the light and create necessary effect.
Personally, I use Lightroom to make some global changes and then switch over to Photoshop with some advanced techniques to create results based on my vision.
About Rajneesh Panwar
Rajneesh Panwar is a visionary Fine Art & Fashion Photographer who sees images with his mind’s eye. For him photography is an art where one captures a brief moment in time , which speaks volumes through a complex interplay between subject, light, color, texture and contrast.
Rajneesh is a panelist light master at light chasers conducting their specialized workshops and photo tours across India.
See more of his work at www.rajneeshpanwar.com and connect with him here